Critics claim GPs have made a mockery of system
GPs ‘need their heads banging together’, according to critics who claim they have made a mockery of the polyclinic model.
The original vision was to bring small independent GP practices together under one roof, combining back-office functions, introducing additional specialist services closer to patients' homes, and improving the overall environment in the primary care estate.
But, while the model has led to a reduction in the number of practices being run from residential properties and other unsuitable premises, speakers at last weeks IHEEM Healthcare Estates Conference claimed GPs' stubborn refusal to join forces had led to overall failure. And they accused primary care doctors of wasting taxpayers' money after tens of millions of pounds were invested in the new GP supercentres.
NHS commentator and broadcaster, Roy Lilley, said: "On one occasion I opened a care centre that from the outside looked like a car showroom or an IKEA store. But inside there were seven reception desks; one main one and one for each of the six GP practices that used the building. Back office functions were the same. It is a ridiculous waste of money, time and energy and someone needs to bang their heads together."
This was a view supported by architects, who said their job was being made difficult by GPs refusing to work together.
Neil Orpwood, healthcare director at HLM Architects, said: "The biggest problem we have come across is trying to get GPs to collaborate within polyclinics. The original idea was to get groups of GPs together and to share services, but the problem has been getting them to sign up. Despite PCTs being forward-thinking and hard-hitting organisations, they still have a problem that they can't get GPs to come on board and because of this we are still finding buildings with split reception desks. With this model you don't get a nice atrium space and the model, and the building, falls flat."
Sarah Waller, director of the Enhancing the Health Environment programme at the King's Fund, added: "Separate reception desks just should not have been allowed. Someone should have stopped this."